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Posts Tagged ‘350.org’

Parc national Wood Buffalo

Wood Buffalo Park
Photo Courtesy of Parc National

In the Northeast corner of Alberta, in the great circumpolar boreal forest of muskeg, lakes, spruce and willow, sprawls Wood Buffalo National Park, 17,300 square miles of it, five Yellowstones in area, the 13th largest protected area on earth, a World Heritage Site.

The Park is the breeding ground of the last several hundred whooping cranes, home to the largest remaining free roaming herds of the threatened Wood Bison (a sub-species, larger than the plains bison), and caribou, moose, brown bear, wolf, lynx, beaver—all the boreal animals. The park includes the immense, ecologically rich inland delta of the  Athabascan and Peace Rivers.

Wood Buffalo Park Lake

Wood Buffalo Park Lake
Photo courtesy of Parc National

Wood Buffalo is the call of the wild country. Here is the deep silence, the wide sky, the northern lights, the fiery, silvery night sky. Around nighttime campfires—maybe the call of an owl, the howl of a wolf, the haunting loon laugher, then all’s quiet. Starlight shines. Sleep comes easily.

Tar Sands Map

Tar Sands Map

Only a few miles south of Wood Buffalo begins a realm of utter contrast. This is the domain of the Athabascan Oil Sands, aka Tar Sands Central, one of the great developing industrial regions of Canada, in total about the size of Florida. The Oil Sands Developer Group assures us that the maximum surface area of oil sands mining will obliterate an area equal to only one ninth the area of Wood Buffalo National Park. That equals a mere 900 square miles.

From the air, the gouges on the land suggest a devastated battlefield. The earth’s skin has been violated, beyond repair.  Industry and the Province of Alberta promise ecological restoration of the used up landscape. The very iidea is preposterous. It is difficult enough to restore a few acres of coastal wetland, much less thousands of acres of virgin forest, lake and muskeg in the far north.

And the great Athabascan River drainage and delta is threatened, no matter the assurances of industry and the province.

Importantly, Canada’s First Nations, most obviously impacted by all this industrialization, are alert and organized to publicize these dangers. (see www.raventrust.com).P1010811

Tar sands mining is energy intensive. From tar to oil, from oil to pipeline, from pipeline to refinery—tar sands oil is extravagant in its bequeathing of carbon dioxide. The immense tar sands reserves, if mined, processed and used, will effectively spell the end of the fragile hope of averting the worst of climate change impacts over the next 50 years.

In this sense, the ecological damage of mining pales in significance to its impact on global warming.

Protests against the pipeline have crystalized into history’s largest, best coordinated,  most crucial and broadly based environmental campaign ever, led largely by new groups like www.350.org.  64433_610876308940769_581445259_n

As fate would have it, the key to full exploitation of the tar sands depends on its transportation via pipeline to refineries and ports on the Gulf Coast. The last step, approval for trans-border pipeline construction, is in the hands of President Obama. He is the decider, as a former president might say. The buck stops at his doorstep, as another president once said.

This single act of approving or disapproving this pipeline is arguably the most historically significant decision Obama will face in his eight year presidency.

Denying the pipeline will immediately call into question the economic viability of full scale tar sands exploitation. The worldwide grassroots  movement toward sustainable energy will gain a new foothold.(Cheap oil is not consistent with green energy!)  A presidential decision to deny the pipeline—despite immense pressure from Canada, industry and the Republican Party might—will show the U.S. at last to be a full partner in international efforts to avert climate disaster.

The administration’s record—the “all of the above” energy policy, the approval of drilling on public lands and waters, the letdown at Copenhagen—is not encouraging.

Yet…we can hope.   SRE

Tar Sands Development

Tar Sands Development

PS   Read Naomi Klein’s eye opening story on systems analysis, climate change and  chances for averting catastrophic  ecological and economic  “melt-down”.   http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/10/29-4

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This has been a heady week for climate activists.

Do the Math New York City
photo courtesy of 350.org

Bill McKibben’s “Do the Math” tour entered its second week. He and other featured speakers headed down the East Coast, playing to sell-out crowds in Portland ME, Boston and New York City. math.350.org/

And over at Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, a 24 hour long live stream video blitz called “The Dirty Weather Report” highlighted climate issues around the world from food security to health. You can watch the videos at climaterealityproject.org/ You can also take this:

The Pledge:“I pledge my name in support of a better tomorrow, one fueled by clean energy. I demand action from the world’s leaders to work toward developing clean energy solutions. I pledge to demand action from our leaders. And I pledge to share this global promise. By uniting our voices, we have the power to change the world.“

On this week’s political front, well, not so heady. While it’s true a New York Times reporter at President Obama’s press conference did ask about climate change directly (a first in ages!) the answer was less than ringing (my personal summing up: Oh yeah, that. Standard talk about future generations etc….then punchline—jobs first, climate, maybe way later.) You can judge for yourself here: thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/11/14/1191841/obama-talks-climate-change-during-his-first-post-election-press-conference/

And his press secretary piled on saying in so many words, no carbon tax. Ever. Great. (getenergysmartnow.com/2012/11/16/on-climate-issues-mr-president-begin-the-education-process-with-your-senior-staff/)

I have always had a problem with the linguistic gymnastics implicit in the standard “I believe in climate change” which sounds more like Santa Claus than science. So I was pleased to read this posted today, Tuning Up the President’s Message on Climate Change by Arno Harris (theenergycollective.com/node/144821). There’s a lot of food for thought there but this really caught my eye:

“Regarding President Obama’s statement: ‘I am a firm believer that climate change is real’ – This sentence commits two classic communications errors that play right into the hands of climate deniers. First, the sentence establishes the idea that belief in climate change is a personal choice. Second, making the assertion that climate change is “real” suggests that the opposite is also a possibility. Think about it. Would you assert your belief that gravity is real? Of course not.”

Harris concludes, “88% of registered voters support government action on global warming even [if’] it had a negative impact on our economy.” (emphasis mine.)

I hope our politicians will remember that and have the will to act on it. I’m not optimistic; but I remain ever hopeful.

Gathering Hope Tree © SR Euston

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Wow…some politicians are actually uttering these words: Climate Change is Real!

Here’s New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in his last minute endorsement of President’s Obama’s re-election after Hurricane Sandy laid NYC low (quoting from the New York Times 11/1/12):

Lower Manhattan 10/29/12 photo courtesy of Damon Dahlen, AOL

“Our climate is changing…And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”

On November 8, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said after the November 6th election extended the Democratic majority in the Senate: “Climate change is an extremely important issue for me and I hope we can address it reasonably. It’s something, as we’ve seen with these storms that are overwhelming our country and the world, we need to do something about it.”

Even President Obama made a passing reference to it in his re-election acceptance speech on the night of November 6th: “We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

I imagine a lot of people who know climate change is happening in real time are thinking they’ll believe that Washington will manage to do anything about it when they see it. For sure one of them, Bill McKibben, isn’t waiting.

Do The Math logo courtesy of 350.org

Climate activist and author, McKibben was arguably the first voice in the wilderness speaking about climate change in terms folks could understand in his groundbreaking book, The End of Nature, published in 1996. With several more books, multiple speaking tours, direct actions, and teaching he’s continued to lead, calling for action on global warming. In 2008, he and others founded 350.org, an international effort to bring climate change front and center on the world political stage through citizen action. His most recent push—a 20 city nationwide biodiesel-fueled bus tour called “Do The Math” (math.350.org/)—started November 7th to a sold-out crowd in Seattle. Described as “TED-talk meets concert tour” there are two goals: to get universities and churches to divest portfolio investments in petroleum companies (following the lead of the South Africa divestments used in the 1980s as an anti-apartheid tool); and to re-ignite grassroots activism for the next stage of the climate battle.

Do the Math—Seattle courtesy of 350.org

Two universities have already pledged to divest. And one attendee at last night’s Los Angeles event told me she’s ready to get arrested if that’s what it takes.

Sounds like McKibben’s message just may be working.

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This letter was written in response to Eco-Justice Notes: Wacky Weather and Climate (www.eco-justice.org/E-120413.asp) received April 13, 2012 via email:

June 2011 North Dakota Flood Bismark Tribune/Tom Stromme

You cite comments by one scientist based on non-peer reviewed research. Dr. Hoerling is a meteorologist, a field that has been notorious in denying human induced climate change. Also note: in other research, he concedes that the drought being experienced in the Mediterranean area is in fact due substantially to climate change. 

Please read the on-line article in 7 Sept. 2011 Nature “Climate and Weather: Extreme Measures.” www.nature.com/news/2011/110907/full/477148a.html  As you know, Nature is the world’s most respected science publication. The article reports that a network of scientists is now saying “it’s time to look seriously at the connection between CC and extreme events”, and are proposing a research agenda. (This was also reported in the NYT). 

 Of course one or two or several weather events can’t be ascribed to climate change. But when extreme after extreme piles up over a decade or more, it takes a climate contrarian to rule out human induced climate change, as Horeling comes close to doing.

And please, at least indicate that these extremes are in general agreement with models of climate change. That what we are seeing is a taste of the CC future. 

The problem with all of this is that by the time research zeros in on the cause/effect relationship, it will be too late. 

Thanks, I hate to be so critical  —  Stan Euston, Port Orford OR

We received this Eco-Justice Note the same day as one from 350.org calling attention to a short video www.climatedots.org/thingshappen/. It’s a powerful statement and a clarion call to participate in May 5th’s 350.org Day of Action “Connect the Dots” (www.climatedots.org), linking catastrophic weather events and global climate change. Public actions are taking place around the globe. Check out the website for an event near you.

And BTW the Eco-Justice Note did end by urging readers to participate in this May 5th event. Just wish it had wholeheartedly agreed that the dots really should be connected.

April 15 Kansas tornado courtesy of AP:The Hays Daily News, Steven Hausler

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It’s supposed to be cherry blossom time in our nation’s capital. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift to the US of 3020 cherry trees which were planted around Washington’s tidal basin. First Lady Helen Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees at a modest ceremony on March 27, 1912.

This year’s Cherry Blossom Festival is a five week extravaganza, from March 20 through April 27. There are art exhibits, sushi tastings, performances, parades. To celebrate, the US Postal Service issued these glorious commemorative stamps by artist Paul Rogers.

Cherry Blossom Stamps courtesy of the US Postal Service

But there’s a small problem. Usually the peak bloom (when 70% of blossoms are open) is in early April. But this year, it began March 20 and was over March 23. The Park Service projects the whole bloom to be over by March 26. The remaining month of the celebration will occur without the guest of honor—the cherry blossoms—which usually attract over one million visitors annually.

So what gives?

Some other March statistics: International Falls, MN whose average March high temperature is 35°, flagged in at 79° March 18. Quick math: that’s 44° above average, and an amazing 13° above the previous high for March. On March 12 Boston reached 71°, breaking a 110 year record. Flowers are blooming a month early across the Northeast and Midwest. Only we here on the Oregon Coast seem to be about average, US weather-wise.

On March 26, Scientific American posted an article titled, “Global Warming Close to Becoming Irreversible.” Scientists warn we’ve got to do something pretty big by 2020 or we’ll likely go beyond the tipping point. Melting glaciers, dying rain forests, acidified oceans. The whole nine yards. (www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=global-warming-close-to-becoming-ir). Even the New York Times (gasp!) has finally had to admit, in a March 26 article in the Science section, that people just might have something to do with it.

Meanwhile March 29 the Senate presented another side of Japanese culture, the kabuki dance, when they (surprise!) refused to stop oil subsidies to the top five big US oil companies. Nothing like good stewardship of our finances (aren’t they the ones wringing their hands about the deficit?). Much less our planetary future.

Subsidies and Senators courtesy of 350.org

You can share this image by going to: www.350.org.

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Yesterday I was reading the latest edition of a literary nature magazine. I stumbled through an article in which the author appeared to need an extreme adventure to notice that the earth was warming up. (Geez…and what was the carbon footprint of that little self-indulgent exercise?) Next was yet another manifesto for a plucky, US-style, cheerful, can-do future, we just need to “re-envision” it. How many more of those “vision quests” can people like me, a lifelong environmentalist, take?

from The Cost of Coal by the Beehive Collective

I was about to give up when I got to an article about a gently subversive artists’ group in Maine who tell important stories of people and nature with intensely researched and designed and metaphorically dazzling wall sized posters. Their most recent project? The Effects of Coal. They travel with their posters, telling their stories and educating those who listen.

I decided to take a closer look at this group—the Beehive Collective. (www.beehivecollective.org)

I agree, these folks look like Hieronymus Bosch paints social issues. Their murals are frighteningly detailed, black and white “beehives” of activity. They look almost alive, pulsating. I feel if I look away and then back some bird will have flown, some frog will have jumped, a tree will have shed its leaves, the pond might have frozen. The art is monumental, uncanny, challenging, thought-provoking. Their first poster projects were about technology but over twelve years they’ve evolved to take on issues of free trade, women’s rights, corporate greed, planetary crises.

Dismantle Monoculture Poster from the Beehive Collective

I’m not sure that the visual arts is a path through to a sturdy future. But I do know that, at some elemental level, it offers at least a glimpse.  Over at that eternal source of Yes We Can Because Yes We Must, 350.org, they’ve started a global project called eARTh, making art on a scale seen from space. The results? see for yourself on their video (www.350.org).  And they led me to this: www.frankejames.com/debate/?page_id=2315. Wow! What an eyeful!

Can these efforts make a difference? I know they do for me. While I may remain not optimistic, these insightful artists (including our grandchildren) continue to give me hope.

Collage: "Tree—2011" © Ben Gomersall (Our grandson)

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New Mexico is knee deep in drought. Albuquerque’s drought status is currently classified extreme, and the southeastern plains has the worst ranking—Exceptional—awarded by the US Drought Monitor. http://drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html

It looks like all sorts of weird weather is happening all over the US. It’s obvious this is the hot/cold/wet/dry/tornado-infested/hurricane-inundated/ “Noah Build Us an Ark” flood-leveled breath of climate change on our necks. Check out these horrible stats: www.grist.org/climate-change/2011-04-29-extreme-weather-costs-lives-health-economy-and-could-be-here

courtesy of iMatterMarch

Still, nobody in DC seems concerned. Even though the Federal Emergency Management Agency spent $6.7 billion in 2010 on 81 separate disasters. I guess the inside the Beltway politicians and pundits haven’t clicked that disaster aid may become the worst case budget buster. Do we need to see the Potomac flood before something happens?

So I’m heartened that the core of 350.org and other climate change organizations are young people. And I’m thrilled to read about a group of teenagers who on Wednesday May 4 filed a lawsuit in San Francisco against the government for failing in their duty to reduce greenhouse gases as a legal issue of abdicating the public trust with future generations. www.nytimes.com/2011/05/05/science/earth/05climate.html This week they’ve scheduled grassroots marches around the world.

courtesy of iMatterMarch

YAY! See it all at http://imattermarch.org/lawsuit/. Got kids? Get them to sign the petition. Maybe go to or organize a local march. For more ideas look at this Oregon-based non-profit, Our Children’s Trust http://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/

After all, it is their future we’re using up. Talk about deficit spending.

courtesy of Our Children's Trust

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